Top positive review
3 people found this helpful
The Last Great JEFFERSON album
on August 28, 2014
This 2014 review is for the 2009 Sony BMG “Grunt” label (using a replica of the original vinyl label) remaster of the classic 1976 release. Sonically, this issue is spot on perfect. The 2004 RCA BMG Heritage CD issue (the first time on CD ever) was muddy and much inferior for some reason to the quality of my 2007 Dragon Fly release under the same label. This is then is my third copy of this “album” if that tells you anything! I can also compare it to my 2005 copy of the starship’s project Blows Against The Empire, a CD which actually raised the level of engineering on original vinyl very well, and the 2011 “Grunt” label release of Red Octopus: comparable on all grounds. Why did I buy this CD again? Because in many respects it is my favorite of the post-Airplane works (including SUNFIGHTER, a Kantner/Slick project between BLOWS and DRAGON FLY).
For you classic rock folks, you might already agree with me, SPITFIRE returned Starship to the prog-rock realm of DRAGON FLY while still being miles from the protest-oriented rock of BLOWS, a bit of a hold-over from Airplane days. RED OCTOPUS was a commercial success which combined the lengthy styling of 70’s progressive music with short and catchy radio-friendly song writing, by no means a failure to fans, but the overall reach of sonic envelopment which drew many to DRAGON FLY was definitely missing in RO, not to mention you could get gaggy sick of hearing Miracles on the radio in 1975. Yes the album version was lengthier and more robust, but there is a such thing as overkill.
SPITFIRE was the perfected end of summing up all the best value in DF and RO. So if you are young and new to Airplane/Starship, and you are looking for “art” reflective of the mid-70’s, stop here first, then go to Dragon Fly and then Red Octopus. If you are searching for remnants of the Jefferson Airplane and their Bohemian social commentary and protest music, Blows Against The Empire and Sunfighter would be suitable.
For you folks my age, finally getting around to replacing vinyl, get the mid-2000’s issues of BLOWS, SUNFIGHTER, DRAGON FLY through third parties and save your pennies. The later 2010’s issues of RED OCTOPUS and SPITFIRE are the better quality of these.
Like someone else said, and I reiterate, there are no clunkers on this album though some might find Big City a weak track (each to his own). Cruisin’, Hot Water, St. Charles, Song To The Sun, and Switchblade are five of the best tracks the super-group ever wrote!
Unfortunately, in 1978, with the release of EARTH, the Starship began to fall from the sky (at least for me). I was terribly disappointed by that album and those which followed as they became increasingly and exponentially bad. With one last dying cockroach quiver, only Grace hanging in there at the end and losing the “Jefferson” from their name, in 1989, “Starship” gave us a solid rock album with Love Among The Cannibals, which is the only album I would recommend after 1976. Consequently, the trilogy of releases in 1974, 1975, and 1976, are among the best rock music of the decade and it’s shadow.
Last word: Craig Chaquico is one of the best and technically talented guitarists to ever slide consistently under the radar without mass audience recognition. This album is one of his finest works. He started his career as a 16 years old wunderkind working alongside the likes of Jerry Garcia, David Crosby, and Carlos Santana; supporting the live concerts of Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Crosby Stills Nash. Kantner and Slick grabbed on to him when recording the Sunfighter album, and they never let go!